Alumni Career Path: Miguel Morales
What is your background?
I was born in Dorado, Puerto Rico, where I spent most of my youth years. After finishing high school I enrolled in the physics department at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. As an undergraduate, I participated in summer internships at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland and at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, which helped me broaden my knowledge in science and research experience. In 2004, I graduated with a double bachelor's degree in science from theoretical physics and mathematics with a specialization in computer science.
After earning my degrees, I enrolled in the physics department of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I worked under the supervision of David Ceperley on quantum Monte Carlo (QMC) methods applied to systems at high pressure. During my graduate studies I was awarded a Stewardship Science Graduate Fellowship for my work on high-pressure hydrogen and helium. I was the recipient of this fellowship for three years during which I participated in a practicum research experience at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under the supervision of Eric Schwegler. I finished my Ph.D. in August 2009.
Where has your career path taken you since graduating? What has it included?
I started a postdoctoral research appointment at Rice University after graduating with a Ph.D. in physics. I’m currently working in the chemistry department under the supervision of Dr. Gustavo Scuseria. My work involves the study of the electronic structure of systems containing heavy elements using accurate simulation methods like QMC and density functional theory.
Why did you choose this path?
After working with Dr. Ceperley for almost five years, I developed an expertise in QMC methods. For my postdoctoral appointment, I was interested in a position that would allow me to apply that knowledge to challenging problems, while at the same time being exposed to other advanced simulation methods. The research group of Dr. Scuseria offered an excellent opportunity to meet my goals. Dr. Scuseria is a world expert on advanced density functional methods and quantum chemistry, areas of research in which I am very interested in.
What words of advice (career or other) do you have for current DOE NNSA SSGF fellows?
My principal advice is to take advantage of every opportunity this fellowship offers. I encourage fellows to take special advantage of the practicum research experience. The practicum offered me the opportunity to work in a place with unique resources and a great creative environment. The annual meetings are a great opportunity to interact with students in similar fields and learn about their research.